'' THE DOCTRINE of war is changing. Drones that cost hundreds of dollars are destroying machines costing millions of dollars. '' And don't forget that Artificial Intelligence is waiting in the wings.

DRONES : Cheap and easy to launch, they are helping Ukraine evade Russia air defences.

They are made of plastic or plastic foam, weigh only a few pounds and are often launched simply by having a soldier throw them into the air, as if tossing a javelin.

In a slow moving counteroffensive against Russian forces that has been reliant at times on the smallest advantages, a fleet of cheap, mostly off-the-shelf drones is providing one for the Ukrainians.

The drones have begun to make a difference in one corner of a stagnant war, soldiers, commanders and pilots said in interviews, because their different materials and variable frequencies can evade enemy jamming systems.

That has allowed them to venture farther in searches for enemy artillery positions and multimillion-dollar air defense systems, all while risking aircraft worth only a few thousand dollars apiece.

Along one of their two main Ukrainian lines of advance in the south, they say, the Russian army has been forced to move its howitzers out of range of Ukraine's guns, as drone pilots have adapted well enough to regularly evade Russian electronic jamming systems that had been spotting them reliably earlier in the war.

The fighting has come down to small steps with high stakes for Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelensky sought on a visit to the United States to dispel the sense of stalemate and shore up military and diplomatic backing for a longer fight.

With sufficient modern weapons, the tide will turn more swiftly on the battlefield, Mr. Zelensky has argued.

In the months since the Ukrainian counteroffensive began in June, Ukraine's push to drive a wedge through Russian forces in the south has been a grueling bloody infantry fight, with advances sometimes measured in yards.

In most aspects, Russia's holds an advantage in firepower, while also benefiting from fighting from well-prepared defenses.

But starting in the summer, a flurry of tweaks to drone designs and radio frequencies began to allow Ukrainians pilots, who had initially lost dozens of drones in the opening weeks of a counteroffensive in the south, to send their drones far beyond the front line.

Drifting, high above farm fields and villages - in search of Russian artillery pieces, taks and other targets, even as those same targets hunt the Ukrainians.

'' Oh, a missile flew past, '' one drone pilot said calmly after a plume of white smoke appeared only yards from the drone he was piloting during a flight last week. '' It means we flew over something interesting.''

DRONES made of plastic foam or plastic are harder to find on radar, reconnaissance teams said.

Ukraine buys them from commercial suppliers who also sell to aerial photographers or hobbyists around the world, along with parts such as radios, cameras, antennas and motors.

The drone units mix and match parts until they find combinations that can fly past sophisticated Russian air defences.

The Russian military also flies adapted consumer drones, but it relies more heavily on purpose-built military drones such as Orlan 10, a fixed wing craft  designed for reconnaissance.

The World Students Society thanks author Andrew E. Kramer.


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